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Bread, buttermilk and crossover aprons

Living

SODA SO GOOD Carmel Healy (centre) and her business partner Mary Kelly (second from right) have launched The Irish Soda Bread Way – a culinary and culture tourism experience.

Áine Ryan

JUST like their grannies, they are wearing their crossover aprons, and the soda bread is already baking and the scones out of the oven when The Mayo News arrives at the Old Mill Hostel, Westport, for the launch last week of ‘The Irish Soda Bread Way’.
The brainchild of retired Home Economics teacher at the Sacred Heart Secondary School Carmel Healy and Fáilte Ireland approved tour guide Mary Kelly, the niche tourism initiative will allow the ‘culturally curious’ visitor be given a lesson on how to bake their own bread while learning about the rich history of the tradition, which was so integral to Irish rural life during the 19th and much of the 20th century.
“After I undertook my Fáilte Ireland Tour Guide course in Rosmuc, I was talking to a good friend who is a great baker and the idea just developed from there. Fáilte Ireland is promoting the whole ‘Make it Yourself’ ethos and there is such a rich history around soda bread,” Mary Kelly says.
Naturally, she says, their delicious bread and scones are served with Mayo-produced Cuinneog Butter and Westport Grove Jam.
Meanwhile, Carmel Healy takes a quick break from serving her scones to give full-credit to her secondary school friend Mary for coming up with the idea.
“I did come up with the idea to use the Old Mill Hostel kitchen as I had given some cookery classes here for Westport Family Resource Centre and discovered it was also used by the ETB (Educational Training Board). Mary and I have been friends since our secondary school days in the Ursuline Convent in Sligo,” Carmel explains.
She adds: “Irish soda bread came after the potato failed during the famine and has American Indian origins. They used to use potash, which is a natural soda in wood ashes. The scones were a big treat back in those days and maybe on a Sunday, Mammy would use one of the precious eggs, which gave her pin-money, to make the treats.”

The Irish Soda Bread Way
CELEBRATING one of Ireland’s ‘best known heritage foods’ which has been an integral part of daily life, Carmel and Mary will ensure the experience for participants is both authentic and fun-filled. The participants will also be told how butter is made. For its inaugural year The Irish Soda Bread Way will be held every Tuesday afternoon from June to September between 2pm and 4pm in the Old Mill Hostel, Barracks Yard, James Street, Westport. Booking is essential, with maximum numbers for each afternoon capped at eight participants. The price is €35 per person.

To find out more or to make a booking, email irishsodabreadway@gmail.com or call 087 7858655.